You are on page 1of 27

CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (1/27)

Lecture 4. Aggregates

Prepared by:
Fahim Al-Neshawy, D.Sc. (Tech.)
Aalto University School of Engineering
Department of Civil Engineering
A: P.O.Box 12100, FIN-00076 Aalto, Finland
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (2/27)

Table of Contents
Lecture 4. Aggregates .......................................................................................................................... 1
4.1 Classification of aggregates ........................................................................................................ 2
4.1.1 Aggregate sources classification ......................................................................................... 3
4.1.2 Unit weight classification .................................................................................................... 5
4.1.3 Aggregates’ size classification ............................................................................................. 5
4.2 Aggregates - Manufacturing process ......................................................................................... 6
4.2.1 Manufacturing process of normal aggregates .................................................................... 6
4.2.2 Manufacturing of lightweight aggregates .......................................................................... 7
4.3 Gradation of aggregates ............................................................................................................. 9
4.3.1 Sieving method ................................................................................................................... 9
4.3.2 Fineness modulus.............................................................................................................. 11
4.4 Engineering properties of aggregates ...................................................................................... 12
4.4.1 Physical properties ............................................................................................................ 13
4.4.2 Chemical Properties .......................................................................................................... 21
4.5 Aggregate uses ......................................................................................................................... 24
4.5.1 Constructional in general .................................................................................................. 24
4.5.2 Concrete and mortars ....................................................................................................... 25
4.5.3 Asphalt and road stone ..................................................................................................... 25
4.5.4 Railway ballast................................................................................................................... 26

4.1 Classification of aggregates

Different types of rocks are classified into the following groups:

1. Classification according to aggregates’ source
2. Classification according to unit weight
3. Classification according to aggregates’ size
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (3/27)

4.1.1 Aggregate sources classification Natural aggregates

• Natural aggregates consists of rock fragments that
are used in their natural state, or are used after
mechanical processing such as crushing, washing, and
• Some natural aggregate deposits, called pit-run
gravel, consist of gravel and sand that can be readily
used in concrete after minimal processing.
• Natural gravel and sand are usually dug or dredged Figure 1. Natural aggregates &
from a pit, river, lake, or seabed. gravels Crushed rock aggregates

• Crushed aggregate is quarried or excavated stone
that has been crushed and screened to the desired
standard particle size and distribution.
• The particles of crushed aggregate are completely
crushed. This gives the products good compaction
and load-bearing properties.
• Crushed stone aggregates are particularly suitable
for use in the courses of streets, roads and other Figure 2. Crushed rock aggregates (1)
areas exposed to traffic. Artificial aggregates (2)

• Artificial aggregates are made out of various waste

• Artificial aggregates are sometimes produced for special
- for making lightweight concrete: burned clays,
artificial cinders, foamed slag, expanded shales and
slate, sintered fly ash exfoliated vermiculite are used
- for making heavy- weight concrete: steel rivet Figure 3. Artificial aggregates
punchings and iron ore (Magentite) have been used. example - Air-cooled blast
furnace slag (3).

Crushed rock aggregates. Available online at:
P. Priyadharshini, G. Mohan Ganesh, A. S. Santhi (2012). A Review on Artificial Aggregates. International Journal of Earth
Sciences and Engineering. ISSN 0974-5904, Volume 05, No. 03 (01)
Blast furnace slag. Available online at:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (4/27) Recycled aggregates (4)

• Recycled aggregate is derived from crushing inert construction and demolition waste. It may
be classified as recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) when consisting primarily of crushed
concrete or more general recycled aggregate (RA) when it contains substantial quantities of
materials other than crushed concrete. Currently, only the use of coarse aggregate derived
from construction or demolition waste is recommended for use in new concrete construction.
• The characteristic of recycled aggregates could be different by its parent concrete because the
parent concrete was designed for its purposes such as permeable, durable and high strength
• Recycling of concrete is a relatively simple process. It involves breaking, removing, and
crushing existing concrete into a material with a specified size and quality. Reinforcing steel
and other embedded items, if any, must be removed, and care must be taken to prevent
contamination by other materials that can be troublesome, such as asphalt, soil and clay balls,
chlorides, glass, gypsum board, sealants, paper, plaster, wood, and roofing materials.
• In general, applications of recycled aggregates without any processing include:
- many types of general bulk fills
- bank protection
- base or fill for drainage structures
- road construction
- noise barriers and embankments
• applications of new concrete with recycled aggregates include:
- pavements, shoulders, median barriers, sidewalks, curbs and gutters
- bridge foundations
- econocrete bases
- bituminous concrete.

(a) (b)
Figure 4. (a)Recycled aggregates, (b) Flow chart for recycled aggregate production.

Portland Cement Association (PCA), Recycled Aggregates. Available online at:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (5/27)

4.1.2 Unit weight classification

The variability in aggregates’ density can be used to classify aggregates of widely different unit
weights, shown in Table 1. The most common classification of aggregates on the basis of bulk specific
gravity is lightweight, normal-weight, and heavyweight aggregates.

Table 1. Unit weight classification of aggregates

Bulk specific
Category Examples Typical applications
ultra- Can be sawed or nailed,
vermiculite, ceramic
lightweight Also used for its insulating properties
Expanded perlite, shale
Structural lightweight concrete 1350 to 1850 kg/m3
or slate
Lightweight Gs < 2.4 Masonry units
Burned clay
Also used for its insulating properties
Crushed brick
Crushed limestone,
Normal Sand, River gravel, Used for normal concrete projects
2.4 < Gs < 2.8
weight Crushed recycled Produce normal-weight concrete 2200 to 2400 kg/m3
Produce high-density concrete up to 6400 kg/m3
• Radiation shielding
Steel or iron shot
Heavyweight Gs > 2.8 • counterweights
Steel or iron pellets
• other applications where a high mass-to-
volume ratio is desired

4.1.3 Aggregates’ size classification

The largest particle size in aggregates may have a diameter as large as 150 mm, and the smallest
particle can be as fine as 5 to 10 microns. Aggregates are classified according to their particle size into:
1. Course aggregates: aggregate particles that are retained on a 4.75 mm sieve (metric No.4). 
particle size ≥ 5 mm
2. Fine aggregates: aggregate particles that pass a 4.75 mm sieve (No. 4).  particle size < 5 mm.
Fine aggregates content usually 35% to 45% by mass or volume of total aggregate

CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (6/27)

Figure 5. Aggregates’ size classification, (a) fine aggregates and (b) coarse aggregates.

4.2 Aggregates - Manufacturing process (5)

4.2.1 Manufacturing process of normal aggregates

Manufacturing process of the normal aggregates include the following steps:

Step 1: supply:
Three major sources of aggregates can be identified:

• Unconsolidated (loose) rock: sand and alluvial materials (dry river beds). This is "rolled" sand
because the grains are rounded.
• Solid rock: limestone and hard rock or crushed volcanic rock. This is "crushed" sand because
the grains are pointed.
• Recycled materials: often of industrial origin, from demolition, recycled concrete, railway
ballast, etc.
Step 2: extraction:
Extraction is a key phase during production from solid rock, particularly because strategic choices,
such as the selection of a slab for color or hardness, can make a real difference.
Step 3: crushing, grinding, screening:
Once extracted, the materials are transported to the processing site for scalping. This process involves
removing unwanted materials, such as blocks, clay, etc. The scalped product is crushed once to
transform the block into broken stone. The process is repeated as many times as necessary to obtain
the desired fragment size.
The resulting material is then screened to obtain aggregates of the desired grade. The larger pieces
that are rejected are returned to the crusher and subsequently re-screened, with the process
continuing until the desired size is obtained.
Some categories of aggregates, such as sand and gravel, undergo complementary processing including
washing, cycloning (pyörrepuhdistus) and scrubbing (märkäpuhdistus), primarily to make them

All about Aggregates – Available online at:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (7/27)

Figure 6. Phases of the aggregates’ manufacturing process (5).

4.2.2 Manufacturing of lightweight aggregates (6)

Manufactured lightweight aggregates are produced by expanding some raw materials in a rotary kiln,
on a sintering grate, or by mixing them with water. The most common lightweight aggregates are
pumice, scoria, expanded shale, expanded clay, expanded slate, expanded perlite, expanded slag and
To produce lightweight aggregate, the raw material (excluding pumice) is expanded to about twice
the original volume of the raw material. The expanded material has properties similar to natural
aggregate, but is less dense and therefore yields a lighter concrete product.
The production of lightweight aggregate:

• Mining or quarrying the raw material.

• The material is crushed with cone crushers, jaw crushers, hammer mills, or pug mills and is
screened for size. Oversized material is returned to the crushers, and the material that passes
through the screens is transferred to the storage.
• From the storage, the material is fed to a rotary kiln, which is fired with coal, coke, natural
gas, or fuel oil, to temperatures of about 1200°C.
• As the material is heated, it liquefies and carbonaceous compounds in the material form gas
bubbles, which expand the material; in the process, volatile organic compounds (VOC) are

Lightweight Aggregate Manufacturing – available online at:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (8/27)

• From the kiln, the expanded product (clinker) is transferred by conveyor into the clinker
cooler where it is cooled by air, forming a porous material.
• After cooling, the lightweight aggregate is screened for size, crushed if necessary, stockpiled
(storage), and shipped.
• Figure 7 illustrates the lightweight aggregate manufacturing process.

Figure 7. Manufacturing of expanded shale, clay and slate ( 7).

ESCS Lightweight Aggregate – Online at:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (9/27)

4.3 Gradation of aggregates

Gradation describes the particle size distribution of the aggregate. The particle size distribution is an
important attribute of the aggregates. Large aggregates are economically advantageous in Portland
cement and asphalt concrete, as they have less surface area and, therefore, require less binder.
However, large aggregate mixes, whether asphalt or Portland cement concrete, are harsher and more
difficult to work into place. Hence, construction considerations, such as equipment capability,
dimensions of construction members, clearance between reinforcing steel, and layer thickness, limit
the maximum aggregate size.

4.3.1 Sieving method

In a sieve analysis, shown in Figure 8:

• A sample of dry aggregate of known weight is separated through a series of sieves with
progressively smaller openings.
• Once separated, the weight of particles retained on each sieve is measured and compared to
the total sample weight.
• Particle size distribution is then expressed as a percent retained by weight on each sieve size.
Results are usually expressed in tabular or graphical format.

Figure 8. Principle of the sieve analysis method.

• The test consists of dividing up and separating, by means of series of sieves, a material into
several particle size classification of decreasing sizes.
• The aperture sizes and the number of sieves are selected in accordance with the nature of the
sample and the accuracy required.
• The mass of the particles retained on the various sieves is related to the initial mass of the
• The cumulative percentages passing each sieve are reported in numerical form or in graphical
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (10/27)

Figure 9. Grading of aggregates using sieving method.

The following terms are related to the sieving methods:

• Individual retained – the mass or percentage retained on one sieve after test
• Cumulative retained – sum of the mass or percentages retained on the sieve and on all
coarser sieves.
• Cumulative passing – sum of the mass or percentage passing the sieve (e.g. sum of the
retained on all finer sieves and pan)
• Test sieves – set of sieves with given aperture sizes and shape. The basic series of sieves
(according EN 933-2) are: 0.063; 0.125; 0.250; 0.500; 1; 2; 4; 8; 16; 32; 63; 125 mm.

Table 2. Example of the particle size distribution calculation

CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (11/27)

Figure 10. Example - Particle size distribution curve

4.3.2 Fineness modulus

Fineness Modulus (FM) is used in determining the degree of uniformity of the aggregate gradation. It
is an empirical number relating to the fineness of the aggregate. The higher the FM is, the coarser the
aggregate is. Fineness Modulus is defined as the sum of the cumulative percentages retained on
specified sieves divided by 100.
∑(𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶𝐶 𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝 𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟𝑟 𝑜𝑜𝑜𝑜 𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠 𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠)
𝐹𝐹𝐹𝐹 = (1)
According EN 12620 - Aggregates for concrete, the FM is calculated on the following sieves: 4mm; 2
mm; 1 mm; 0.5 mm; 0.25 mm; and 0,125 mm. An example of sample calculation of Fineness Modulus
is shown in XX
Table 3. Sample calculation of Fineness Modulus
Sieve Size Percentage of individual fraction Cumulative percentage Percentage passing by
retained, by weight (%) retained by weight (%) weight (%)
4 2 2 98
2 13 15 85
1 25 40 60
0.5 15 55 45
0.25 22 77 23
0.125 20 97 3
Pan 3 100 0
Total 100 Σ = 286
FM = 286/100 = 2.86
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (12/27)

4.4 Engineering properties of aggregates

Aggregates’ properties are defined by the characteristics of both the individual particles and the
characteristics of the combined material. As shown in Table 4, aggregates’ properties can be further
described by their (i) Physical characteristics, (ii) Chemical characteristics and (iii) Mechanical
Table 4. Basic Aggregate Properties (8)
Relative Importance for End Use*
concrete Asphalt Base
Particle shape (angularity) MI VI VI
Particle shape (flakiness, elongation) MI MI MI
Particle size—maximum MI MI MI
Particle size—distribution MI MI MI
Particle surface texture MI VI VI
Pore structure, porosity VI MI UI
Physical Specific gravity, absorption VI MI MI
characteristics Soundness—weatherability VI MI MI
Unit weight, voids—loose, compacted VI MI MI
Volumetric stability—thermal MI UI UI
Volumetric stability—wet/dry MI UI MI
Volumetric stability—freeze/thaw VI MI MI
Integrity during heating UI MI UI
Deleterious constituents VI MI MI
Solubility MI UI UI
Surface charge UI VI UI
Chemical Asphalt affinity UI VI MI
characteristics Reactivity to chemicals VI UI UI
Volume stability—chemical VI MI MI
Coatings MI MI UI
Compressive strength MI UI UI
Toughness (impact resistance) MI MI UI
Mechanical Abrasion resistance MI MI MI
characteristics Character of products of abrasion MI MI UI
Mass stability (stiffness, resilience) UI VI VI
Polishability MI MI UI
*VI = Very important; MI = Moderately important; UI = unimportant or importance unknown

Meininger, R. C. and F. P. Nichols. (1990) Highway Materials Engineering, Aggregates and Unbound Bases. Publication no.
FHWA-HI-90-007, NHI Course No. 13123. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration, 1990.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (13/27)

4.4.1 Physical properties Bulk unit weight and voids in aggregate

Bulk unit weight is the weight of aggregate required to fill a “unit” volume. Typical unit volume is
cubic meters. The procedure for measuring the aggregate bulk unit weight is:
For loose aggregates:
• Shovel dry aggregate into container
• Limit drop < 5 cm above rim of container
• Strike off aggregate level with top of container
• Determine weight of aggregate in container, WS
• Compute unit weight

For Compacted aggregates:

• Shovel dry aggregate into container
- Fill to 1/3 of volume
- Rod 25 times
- Repeat 3 times to fill container
- Strike off aggregate level with top of
• Determine weight of aggregate in container, WS
• Compute unit weight
The bulk unit weight of aggregate is needed for the proportioning of Portland cement concrete
mixtures. According to ASTM C29 procedure, a rigid container of known volume is filled with
aggregate, which is compacted either by rodding, jigging, or shoveling. The bulk unit weight of
aggregate is (γb) determined as:
𝛾𝛾𝑏𝑏 = (2)
where is Ws the weight of (stone) aggregate [kg], and V is the volume of the container [m3].
If the bulk dry specific gravity of the aggregate (Gsb) is known, the percentage of voids between
aggregate particles can be determined as follows:
𝑉𝑉𝑠𝑠 � 𝛾𝛾 � 𝛾𝛾𝑏𝑏 𝛾𝛾𝑏𝑏
%𝑉𝑉𝑠𝑠 = × 100 = 𝑠𝑠 × 100 = × 100 = × 100
𝑉𝑉 𝑊𝑊 𝛾𝛾𝑠𝑠 𝐺𝐺𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠 ∙ 𝛾𝛾𝑤𝑤
�𝛾𝛾 � (3)

% 𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉 = 100 − %𝑉𝑉𝑠𝑠

Where Vs = the volume of aggregates (solid)
γs = the unit weight of aggregates
γb = the bulk unit weight of aggregates
γw = the unit weight of water
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (14/27) Specific gravity

The weight–volume characteristics of aggregates are not an important indicator of aggregate quality,
but they are important for concrete mix design. Density, the mass per unit volume, could be used for
these calculations. However, specific gravity (Gs), the mass of a material divided by the mass of an
equal volume of distilled water, is more commonly used.

Figure 11. Specific gravity of rock.

Four types of specific gravity are defined based on how voids in the aggregate particles are
1. bulk-dry specific gravity  Concrete
2. bulk-saturated surface–dry (SSD) specific gravity
3. apparent specific gravity
4. effective specific gravity
Bulk Dry Specific Gravity (BSG):

• Aggregate has tiny pores:

o permeable or Ws = the weight of solids
o impermeable to water. Vs = the volume of solids
• Bulk dry specific gravity includes Vi = the volume of water
the volume of both permeable impermeable voids
Vp = the volume of water
and impermeable pores.
permeable voids
• The BSG is the ‘Real’ specific γw = the unit weight of water


𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑 𝐺𝐺𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠 = = (4)

Bulk-saturated surface–dry (SSD) specific gravity (BSGSSD)

CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (15/27)

• Saturated surface dry (SSD) is

defined as the condition of an
Ws = the weight of solids
aggregate in which the surfaces of
Wp = the of water in the
the particles are "dry" (i.e., surface permeable voids
adsorption would no longer take Vs = the volume of solids
place), but the inter-particle voids Vi = the volume of water
are saturated with water. impermeable voids
Vp = the volume of water
• Assumes all permeable pores filled
permeable voids
with water (saturated) γw = the unit weight of water
• Particles appear moist but not shiny
(surface dry)
𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆 𝐺𝐺𝑠𝑠,𝑏𝑏𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠𝑠 = = (5)

Apparent specific gravity: (ASG)

• The apparent specific gravity is

defined as the ratio of the mass of
the particles to the mass of a Ws = the weight of solids
Vs = the volume of solids
volume of water equal to the net
Vi = the volume of water
volume of the particles impermeable voids
• Apparent specific gravity includes γw = the unit weight of water
only the volume of impermeable
(𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉 𝑛𝑛𝑛𝑛𝑛𝑛 𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴 𝑡𝑡𝑡𝑡 𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤𝑤). 𝛾𝛾𝑤𝑤 (𝑉𝑉𝑠𝑠 + 𝑉𝑉𝑖𝑖 ). 𝛾𝛾𝑤𝑤

Effective specific gravity

• Only a portion of the water‐

permeable pores are filled Ws = the weight of solids
Vs = the volume of solids
with asphalt cement.
Vc = the volume of voids not
• Effective specific gravity filled with asphalt cement
includes the pores not γw = the unit weight of water
accessible to asphalt.
(𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉 𝑛𝑛𝑛𝑛𝑛𝑛 𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎 𝑡𝑡𝑡𝑡 𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎ℎ𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎𝑎). 𝛾𝛾𝑤𝑤 (𝑉𝑉𝑠𝑠 + 𝑉𝑉𝑐𝑐 ). 𝛾𝛾𝑤𝑤

The specific gravity and absorption of coarse aggregates are determined in accordance with ASTM
C127 (Standard Test Method for Relative Density (Specific Gravity) and Absorption of Coarse
Aggregate). In this procedure:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (16/27)

• A representative sample of the aggregate is soaked for 24 hours and weighed suspended in
• The sample is then dried to the saturated surface–dry (SSD) condition and weighed.
• Finally, the sample is dried to a constant weight and weighed.
The specific gravity and absorption are determined by:
𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑 𝐺𝐺𝑠𝑠 = (8)

A = the dry weight B = the SSD weight C = the submerged weight

Figure 12. The weight values as part of ASTM C127. Particle shape and surface texture

• The shape and surface texture of the individual aggregate particles determine how the
material will pack into a dense configuration and also determines the mobility of the stones
within a mix.
• There are two considerations in the shape of the material: angularity and flakiness
• The shape of aggregate particles can be classified as either angular, subangular, subrounded or
• Angular and rough-textured aggregates
- Crushing rocks produces angular particles with sharp corners and rough texture.
- Due to weathering, the corners of the aggregates break down, creating subangular
particles and smooth texture.
- Generally, angular and rough-textured aggregates produce bulk materials with higher
stability than rounded, smooth-textured aggregates.
• Rounded aggregates
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (17/27)

- When the aggregates tumble while being transported in water, the corners can
become completely rounded.
- Rounded aggregates will be easier to work into place than angular aggregates, since
their shapes make it easy for them to slide across each other.
• Each shape has advantages and disadvantages depending on the desired properties of the
finished product.
Particle shape of coarse aggregates
Figure 13 shows the different shapes of coarse aggregates: angular, rounded, flaky, elongated, and
flaky and elongated. Flakiness, also referred to as flat and elongated, describes the relationship
between the dimensions of the aggregate.

Figure 13. Aggregates’ particle shapes.

Figure 14 shows the concept of the flakiness test. This is an evaluation of the coarse portion of the
aggregates, but only aggregates retained on the 9.5 mm (3/8 inch) sieve are evaluated.

• A flat particle is defined as one where the ratio of the “middle” dimension to the smallest
dimension of the particle exceeds the 3 to 1.
• An elongated particle is defined as one where the ratio of the longest dimension to the
middle dimension of the particle exceeds the 3 to 1.
• Under the Superpave criteria, particles are classified as “flat and elongated” if the ratio of the
largest dimension to the smallest dimension exceeds 5 to 1.

Figure 14. Concept of flakiness test.

Texture of coarse aggregates

The roughness of the aggregate surface plays an important role in the way the aggregate compacts
and bonds with the binder material.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (18/27)

• Surface texture is a measure of the smoothness and roughness of aggregate.

• The grouping of aggregate is broad and is based on visual examination of the specimen.
• the aggregates are classified into five groups, namely, Glassy, Smooth, Granular, Crystalline,
Honeycombed and Porous

Table 5. Classification of aggregates based on shape and surface texture.

Classification Example Application
River or
Rounded seashore Rounded aggregates are suitable to use in concrete
gravels because flaky & elongated particles reduce workability,
Partly Pit sands & increase water demand & reduce strength.
rounded Gravels
To meet the needs of angular aggregates with high
texture, many specifications for coarse aggregates used
shape Crushed
Angular in asphalt concrete require a minimum percentage of
aggregates with crushed faces as a surrogate angularity
and texture requirement.
Flaky and elongated aggregates are undesirable for
Flaky asphalt concrete, since they are difficult to compact
during construction and are easy to break
This natural coloured flint is perfect for driveways,
Glassy Natural flint footpaths, borders and general landscaping, plus for
‘spray tar’ and chip treatment for driveways.
The stability of Portland cement concrete is mostly
developed by the cementing action of the Portland
Smooth cement and by the aggregate interlock, it is desirable to
use rounded and smooth aggregate particles to improve
the workability of fresh concrete during mixing.
Sandstone is used in cement manufacturing,
construction aggregate, and for road aggregate,
Granular Sandstone Sandstone is used also for production of glass and
Surface ceramics, and as a raw material for the manufacture of
texture mortar
Rough texture generally improves bonding and increases
interparticle friction
The stability of asphalt concrete and base courses is
mostly developed by the aggregate interlock. Therefore,
Rough Basalt
angular and rough particles are desirable for asphalt
concrete and base courses in order to increase the
stability of the materials in the field and to reduce
Granite is the best aggregate for high-grade concrete.
Crystalline Granite Granite is also used as a decorative stone. It can be grey,
red, or pink and has a lot of shades.

Particle shape and texture of fine aggregates

The angularity and texture of fine aggregates have a very strong influence on the stability of asphalt
concrete mixes.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (19/27)

Figure 15. Apparatus used to measure angularity and surface texture of fine aggregate.

Uncompacted Void Content test [ASTM C-1252] is an indirect method for measuring fine aggregate

• The test determines percent air voids present in loosely compacted fine aggregate when a
sample of fine aggregate is allowed to flow into a small calibrated cylinder through a standard
• The diameter of the funnel orifice is approximately 12.5 mm, and its tip is located 114 mm
above the top of the cylinder, as shown in Figure 15.
• This test relates uncompacted void content to the number of fractured faces in an aggregate
• Air voids present in loosely compacted or uncompacted aggregates are calculated as the
difference between the volume of the calibrated cylinder and the absolute volume of the fine
aggregate collected in the cylinder.
• The volume of the cylinder is calibrated and is approximately 100 ml.
• Absolute volume of the collected fine aggregate is calculated using the dry bulk specific gravity
of the fine aggregate.
• The uncompacted void content of fine aggregate is calculated from the following formula:
𝑉𝑉 − �𝐺𝐺 �
𝑏𝑏 (12)
𝑈𝑈 = × 100
U = uncompacted void content in fine aggregate, %;
V = volume of a calibrated cylinder, ml;
F = mass of fine aggregate in the cylinder; and
Gb = dry bulk specific gravity of fine aggregate. Absorption and surface moisture

Although aggregates are inert, they can capture water and asphalt binder in surface voids.
For using in concrete:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (20/27)

• The amount of water the aggregates absorb is important in the design of Portland cement
concrete, since moisture captured in the aggregate voids is not available to react with the
cement or to improve the workability of the plastic concrete.
• There is no specific level of aggregate absorption that is desirable for aggregates used in
Portland cement concrete, but aggregate absorption must be evaluated to determine the
appropriate amount of water to mix into the concrete.
For using in asphalt:

• Absorption is also important for asphalt concrete, since absorbed asphalt is not available to
act as a binder.
• Thus, highly absorptive aggregates require greater amounts of asphalt binder, making the mix
less economical.
• On the other hand, some asphalt absorption is desired to promote bonding between the
asphalt and the aggregate.
• Therefore, low-absorption aggregates are desirable for asphalt concrete.

Figure 16. Voids and moisture absorption of aggregates.

Figure 16 demonstrates the four moisture condition states for an aggregate particle:
1. Bone dry means the aggregate contains no moisture; this requires drying the aggregate in an
oven to a constant mass.
2. Air dry condition, the aggregate may have some moisture but the saturation state is not
3. Saturated surface–dry (SSD) condition, the aggregate’s voids are filled with moisture but the
main surface area of the aggregate particles is dry. Absorption is defined as the moisture
content in the SSD condition.
4. Moist aggregates have moisture content in excess of the SSD condition. Free moisture is the
difference between the actual moisture content of the aggregate and the moisture content in
the SSD condition.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (21/27)

The percent Absorption Capacity (AC), which is the maximum amount of water aggregate can absorb,
can be calculated as:
𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴 = × 100 (13)
The percent Surface Moisture (SM), which is the amount of water on the surface of aggregate
particles, can be calculated as:
𝑊𝑊𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚 − 𝑊𝑊𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆
𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆 = × 100 (14)
The percent Moisture Content (MC) in the aggregate in any state, can be calculated as:
𝑊𝑊𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚 − 𝑊𝑊𝑂𝑂.𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑
𝑀𝑀𝑀𝑀 = × 100 (15)
Wmoist = weight of moist aggregate;
Wo.dry = weight of oven dry aggregate
WSSD = weight of saturated surface dry aggregate

4.4.2 Chemical Properties (9)

The chemical properties of aggregates have to do with the molecular structure of the minerals in the
aggregate particles. These properties are:

• Chemical composition
• Reactions with asphalt
• Reactions with cement Chemical Composition
• Aggregates consisting of materials that can react with alkalies in cement and cause excessive
expansion, cracking and deterioration of concrete mix should never be used. Therefore it is
required to test aggregates to know whether there is presence of any such constituents in
aggregate or not.
• Some aggregates have minerals that are subject to oxidation, hydration, and carbonation.
These properties are not particularly harmful, except when the aggregates are used in
Portland cement concrete. As might be expected, iron sulfides, ferric and ferrous oxides, free
lime, and free magnesia in industrial products and wastes are some of the common
substances. Any of these substances may cause distress in the Portland cement concrete and
give the concrete an unsightly appearance. Asphalt affinity
Stripping, or moisture-induced damage, is a:

CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (22/27)

• Separation of the asphalt film from the aggregate through the action of water,
• Reducing the durability of the asphalt
• Resulting in pavement failure.
The mechanisms causing stripping are complex. One important factor is the relative affinity of the
aggregate for either water or asphalt.

• Hydrophilic (water-loving) aggregates, such as silicates, have a greater affinity for water than
for asphalt. They are usually acidic in nature and have a negative surface charge.
• Conversely, hydrophobic (water-repelling) aggregates have a greater affinity for asphalt than
for water. These aggregates, such as limestone, are basic in nature and have a positive surface
• Hydrophilic aggregates are more susceptible to stripping than hydrophobic aggregates.
• Other stripping factors include porosity, absorption, and the existence of coatings and other
deleterious substances.
Since stripping is the result of a compatibility problem between the asphalt and the aggregate, tests
for stripping potential are performed on the asphalt mix:

• Early compatibility tests submerged the sample in either room temperature water (ASTM
D1664 - Test Method for Coating and Stripping of Bitumen-Aggregate Mixtures) 
observation of the percentage of particles stripped from the asphalt vs time
• Boiling water (ASTM D3625 - Standard Practice for Effect of Water on Bituminous-Coated
Aggregate Using Boiling Water)  observation of the percentage of particles stripped from
the asphalt vs time.
• More recent procedures subject asphalt to cycles of freeze–thaw conditioning  The
strength or modulus of the specimens is measured and compared with the values of
unconditioned specimens (ASTM D1075 - Standard Test Method for Effect of Water on
Compressive Strength of Compacted Bituminous Mixtures). Alkali–aggregate reactivity
• Silica, SiO2, is a component of many rocks; however, not all forms of silica react significantly
with the pore solution of concrete and, thus, not all siliceous aggregates produce damaging
ASR. For example, the mineral quartz is stable whereas the mineral opal is highly reactive,
although both are silica minerals with similar chemical composition, being primarily composed
of SiO2.
• Opal has a highly disordered (amorphous) structure which renders it unstable at high pH and,
as such, aggregates containing significant quantities of the mineral opal may be expected to
react and result in expansion when used in concrete, provided there is sufficient alkali present.
On the other hand, quartz will not react deleteriously regardless of the alkali content of the
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (23/27)

Figure 17. Solubility of the silica of different types of aggregates.

The most common reaction, particularly in humid and warm climates, is between the:

• Active silica constituents of an aggregate and

• The alkalis in cement (sodium oxide, Na2O and potassium oxide, K2O).
The alkali–silica reaction results in excessive expansion, cracking, or pop-outs in concrete, as shown in
Figure 18b.

(a) (b)
Figure 18. ASR: (a) The three necessary components for ASR-induced damage in concrete, (b) Example
of cracking in concrete due to alkali-silica reactivity

Other constituents in the aggregate, such as carbonates, can also react with the alkali in the cement
(alkali–carbonate reactivity); however, their reaction is less harmful. The alkali–aggregate reactivity is
affected by the amount, type, and particle size of the reactive material, as well as by the soluble alkali
and water content of the concrete.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (24/27)

The best way to evaluate the potential for alkali–aggregate reactivity is by reviewing the field service
history. For aggregates without field service history, several laboratory tests are available to check the
potential alkali–aggregate reactivity:

• The (ASTM C227 - Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali Reactivity of Cement-Aggregate
Combinations (Mortar-Bar Method)) test can be used to determine the potentially expansive
alkali–silica reactivity of cement–aggregate combinations. In this test, a mortar bar is stored
under a prescribed temperature and moisture conditions and its expansion is determined.
• The quick chemical test (ASTM C289 - Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali-Silica
Reactivity of Aggregates (Chemical Method)) can be used to identify potentially reactive
siliceous aggregates.
• ASTM C586 - Standard Test Method for Potential Alkali Reactivity of Carbonate Rocks as
Concrete Aggregates (Rock-Cylinder Method) is used to determine potentially expansive
carbonate rock aggregates (alkali–carbonate reactivity).

4.5 Aggregate uses (10)

Aggregate can be used in a number of ways in construction. In roads and railway ballast the
aggregates are used to resist the overall (static as well as dynamic) load, to distribute the load
properly to the supporting ground and to drain the water off the surface. In concrete the aggregate is
used for economy, reduce shrinkage and crakes and to strengthen the structure. They are also used in
water filtration and sewage treatment processes. The uses of aggregates can be summarized in to the
following three categories:

• As a Load Bearing Material

• As a Filling Material
• As an Infiltrating Material

4.5.1 Constructional in general

Aggregates are used in construction to provide drainage, protect pipes, and to provide hard surfaces.

• They are also used in water filtration and sewage treatment processes. Water will percolate
through a trench filled with aggregate more quickly than it will through the surrounding soil,
thus enabling an area to be drained of surface water.  This is frequently used alongside
roads in order to disperse water collected from the asphalt surfacing.
• Voids created around the foundations of buildings during construction are filled with
aggregate because it is easier to compact than the original soil that was removed, resulting in
a more solid finish that will support the structure. Aggregates generally are not affected by the
weather as much as soils, particularly clay soils, and will not suffer from shrinkage cracking
during dry spells.

Uses of Aggregates – online at:
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (25/27)

• Pipes laid to convey treated water, or as conduits for cables, need to be protected from sharp
objects in the ground and are therefore laid on, and surrounded by fine aggregate before
trenches are backfilled.
• Unpaved roads and parking areas are covered in a surface layer of aggregate to provide a
more solid surface for vehicles.  This prevents the vehicles from sinking into the soil,
particularly during wet weather.
• Groundwater is filtered naturally through aquifers, often layers of sand and gravel, and only
needs to be disinfected with chlorine before it is safe to use. This natural process can be
replicated in treatment works to remove suspended solids from surface or stored water,
before disinfection. In addition sand beds are used during the last stages of sewage treatment
works as a final filter and cleaning process before the water is released into watercourses. In
some cases reed beds are used at this stage, where the reeds will be grown on gravel.

4.5.2 Concrete and mortars

• Concrete is a mixture of aggregates, cement and water. The purpose of the aggregates within
this mixture is to provide a rigid skeletal structure and to reduce the space occupied by the
cement paste. Both coarse aggregates (particle sizes of 20 mm to 4 mm) and fine aggregates
(particle sizes less than 4 mm) are required but the proportions of different sizes of coarse
aggregate will vary depending on the particular mix required for each individual end use.
• The smaller the aggregate size, the greater the surface area and the more cement will be
required to bind it all together, resulting in a higher cost. However, in general terms, the
greater the quantity of cement used the stronger the concrete will be.
• Mortar consists of sand, cement and water. In some circumstances lime may also be added,
together with admixtures (chemicals to control setting and workability) and/or pigments if
required. They are used to bond bricks or concrete blocks together in walls and to provide
weather protection (known as rendering).

4.5.3 Asphalt and road stone

• This category includes not just roads, but also pavements, airport runways, school
playgrounds, car parks, most footpaths or cycle ways, and other similar structures. Although
each type of structure will require some variation in the material, it is useful to look at the
basic structure of roads because they represent the bulk of the aggregate use in this category.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (26/27)

Figure 19. Cross-section of a typical road construction

• The subgrade represents the natural soil, which will be compacted before the road
construction starts.
• The capping layer is an optional layer, used when the local soils require extra strength, and it
is not coated with bitumen.
• The sub-base is the main uncoated road stone layer and its role is to give strength and act as a
solid platform for the layers above.
• The binder course (previously two layers known as the base course and road base) and surface
course (previously known as wearing course) are commonly called 'asphalt'. They consist of
coarse aggregates, with particle sizes typically between 2 mm to 28 mm, and fine aggregates,
with particle sizes of less than 2 mm, mixed with a bitumen binder and occasionally some
additional filler if required. The exact sizes required for the coarse aggregates will depend on
the particular use and the asphalt recipe specified.
• The binder course is the main load-bearing layer and provides an even plane for the surface
• The surface course provides the road with protection from the weather because water ingress
would be very destructive, but also gives the final running surface that must be resistant to
abrasion and skidding.

4.5.4 Railway ballast

• A fully loaded train weighs a considerable amount (> 2 000 tonnes), added to this is the weight
of the track itself and the sleepers it rests on. It soon becomes obvious that a very tough
aggregate is needed to support this weight and distribute the load of a passing train to avoid
serious damage to the ground, or other structures, underneath. Similarly the railway track and
sleepers must be held in place firmly and not move as a train passes along them.
CIV-E1010 Building Materials Technology (5 cr) (27/27)

Figure 20. Example of a railway ballast.

• Railway ballast generally consists of a tough igneous rock, such as granite, with large (40-50
mm size) angular pieces that lock together. Because of the way igneous rock is formed it is
highly resistant to pressure and does not break easily.